The country's frontliners appealed to the government to impose a two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Mega Manila to win what they called the Philippines' "losing battle" against COVID-19.
"The Philippine healthcare system is already overwhelmed, and the healthcare workers are united in sounding a distress signal to the nation," Dr Mario Panaligan, president of the Philippine College of Physicians, said in a letter to President Rodrigo Duterte, sent through Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr, chief implementer of the government’s national policy on the pandemic; and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
The letter, dated August 1, is supported by at least 80 medical groups.
Philippine Medical Association president Dr Jose Santiago Jr read out the letter during a virtual press conference on Saturday, August 1, asking for a lockdown in Mega Manila – Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Central Luzon, and Mimaropa – from August 1 to 15 so the government can improve its pandemic response.
"We are in a losing battle against COVID-19, and we need to come up with a consolidated plan. Hence, we, as frontliners dedicated to win the battle against COVID-19, call on our government to put Mega Manila back to Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) for a period of two weeks, from August 1 to 15," the medical community said.
“The health sector cannot hold the line for much longer. Our health care workers should not bear the burden of deciding who lives and who dies. If the health system collapses, it is ultimately the poor that is most affected,” they added.
The frontliners said that during their proposed two week-lockdown, the government should "urgently" address the following problems in the country's fight against COVID-19:
The medical community noted that "contact tracing is failing miserably" as there are government guidelines on this "but LGU compliance is optional." (READ: Only 4 out of 600 localities in PH have contact tracing capability – Magalong)
They also asked the government to reconsider the reopening of businesses like gyms, fitness centers, tutorial services, review centers, internet cafes, pet grooming services, and drive-in cinemas. (READ: 'Reclassifying' businesses: Task force's way of reopening economy without changing quarantine modes)
“We understand that imposing an enhanced community quarantine is a complex decision. Though health may be just one dimension, let us remember that we need healthy people to reinvigorate our economy," the groups said.
"The current crisis necessitates putting prime importance on effective solutions addressing the health problems at hand. These proposed solutions can have far-reaching effects once implemented," they added.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque responded to the letter on Saturday, August 1, said that maintaining the general community quarantine (GCQ) in Metro Manila was the "subject of debate and discussion" in government but it was ultimately decided that any further lockdowns would be localized.
"The Palace understands the delicate balancing act between public health and the economic health of the nation given that Metro Manila and Calabarzon make up 67% of our economy," he said.
"The strict lockdown in Metro Manila has served its purpose, and we need to intensify other strategies," Roque added.
This is why, he said that local government units (LGU) in Metro Manila were directed to implement lockdowns in barangays where 80% of COVID-19 cases are located.
LGUs have also been asked to implement other measures, said Roque, including the stringent enforcement of minimum public health standards; massive targeted testing, intensified tracing, quarantine of close contacts; strict adherence to the implementation of Oplan Kalinga for isolation of confirmed cases.
“Community quarantine alone, we repeat, is an insufficient response in controlling COVID-19,” said Roque. The Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), he said, has been scaling up hospital capacity and engaging community response.
Roque also said that the government's coronavirus task force will include the input of stakeholders and their future meetings.
On Friday, July 31, the Philippines recorded its biggest single-day spike in coronavirus cases – 4,063 cases – which raised the total confirmed cases in the country to 93,354. – Rappler.com